Welcome to “Creating Your Brand,” the first in a three-part series on basic marketing for authors.
If you are like me, a complete novice in the area of promoting yourself, this is the place for you.
In 2016, I made it a priority to learn all I could about this subject. I had one-on-one brainstorming session with a published author and marketing specialist, attended workshops with literary agents, and read A LOT! Now I am ready to share the basics. Let’s start with some easy questions.
What is a brand? It is an image, tagline, or look you present to your audience. In the case of writers, the audience is readers, parents, teachers, librarians, agents, and editors.
What is the purpose of a brand? It defines you and your work and makes you recognizable to your audience. Think about these easily recognizable examples (yes, they are on a much larger scale, but they may help clarify):
Where is your brand used? Your brand is used in all areas representing you. That includes social media, swag, book signings, school visits, presentations, and more.
What are the rules for creating a brand? There are no rules, but your brand should be focused, concise, and consistent. It should be clear that you understand your audience. Of course your focus will change throughout your career, so don’t be afraid to rebrand as necessary.
CREATING A BRAND
Now that we know what a brand is, it’s time to get to the good stuff. Creating one. But how does an author just starting out, without a huge advance to spend on a marketing team, create a brand? Excellent question. Before we get to that, let’s look at a few websites that clearly define the author:
Rob Sanders – His website is colorful and animated, with a banner in pastel colors of children walking in a line. It clearly shows he writes books for young children.
Kim Liggett – Kim’s website is dark with red, black, and gray, and gives you a spooky and creepy feeling. Kim is a young adult horror writer. In addition, the image on her website includes a black ribbon, which is a central theme in her first book, and clearly represents her work.
Ellie Terry – Ellie’s website is simple, yet whimsical and colorful, just the right feeling for middle grade readers. In addition, her background is consistent with her upcoming book cover and her bio picture.
Okay, so where do we start?
The first step is to decide what central idea you want to convey to your audience. Think about it like this, most writers have an alter ego. You may be an accountant by day and writer of humorous, laugh so hard you snort, stories for children by night. Will kids want to see you in a business suit with tax papers in front of you, or read your jokes that makes milk come out of their noses? I love numbers, but my vote is for squirting milk.
One tip to find your central idea is to list the types of stories you write. Do you stick with one particular age group or genre like the examples above? At first glance, your books may seem different, but if you dig deep, I’ll bet you find some similarities.
You believe you have an idea, now what?
Think of it in a visual way. Are you drawn to sleek, whimsical, black and white, color, photos, or something simple like just your name. Even a name or tagline is visual because you will want to decide on which font best represents it.
You’ve narrowed it down. You have a visual. Great! Now make it happen.
You want me to do what? How am I supposed to do that?
With a lot of researching to find what engages you, even more playing around with styles, and most of all, not being afraid to try.
At least that’s what I did.
I write for middle grade and young adult readers. Both are kids, but are far different in terms of likes, dislikes, ideas, goals, and interests. I wanted my brand to encompass both, so fun and moody at the same time.
I also write in different genres. My novels are all based in current times, but each have an element that makes them unique, such as science fiction, paranormal, mystery, own voices, and more. Based on that, I leaned toward a generic look.
The last thing I wanted to include was something about myself. An image that clearly showed what I loved best. Besides my family and superhero movies, that would be books.
So I took my ideas and sent them to my wonderful illustrator Eva Folks. She played around with a few sketches and color palettes to create my brand. And thanks to her incredible idea of listing the genres I write in the final product, whenever my audience sees my brand, they know what to expect from me. Here is the finished product:
You can see my entire website and more of Eva’s drawings at halligomez.com
Is creating your brand stressful? YES! You want to present yourself in the best possible way, but remember to play around and don’t be afraid to try.
Stay tuned for part two of the series “Your Website” coming in February. I would love to hear your tips on creating a brand. Please leave them in the comments.
HALLI GOMEZ teaches martial arts and writes for children and young adults because those voices flow through her brain. She enjoys family, outdoors, reading, and is addicted to superhero movies. You can find her on Twitter.